Significant Songs (8)

Uncle Remus

From the piano introduction, to the great guitar, this short song captured my imagination immediately, when I heard it as a track on Frank Zappa’s album ‘Apostrophe’, in 1974. (This song was actually co-written with George Duke) The lyrics are amusing, and on first hearing, the significance of the words may not be apparent. Listen a few more times, and you begin to realise that it is a song about racism in America, and resistance to that racism. I have written about Frank Zappa before, and his use of nonsense rhymes in his lyrics, as well as his use of what appear to be unrelated words, just to make those rhymes. On reflection, there is nothing nonsensical about these songs, and careful listening will reveal issues and opinions, all there to be discovered.

Although he composed many of my favourite songs of the genre, it is this track that stays with me, and is the one that I always want to hear first. I can recall the whole thing at will, from the heavy piano, to the operatic chorus. I have added the lyrics, for your perusal. Unfortunately, the long guitar solo that ends the song is only available on the original vinyl, so I cannot offer it here. This is the CD version, a studio edit of the original album. It’s still good though.

“Uncle Remus”

Wo, are we movin’ too slow?
Have you seen us,
Uncle Remus . . .
We look pretty sharp in these clothes (yes, we do)
Unless we get sprayed with a hose
It ain’t bad in the day
If they squirt it your way
‘Cept in the winter, when it’s froze
An’ it’s hard if it hits
On yer nose
On yer nose

Just keep yer nose
To the grindstone, they say
Will that redeem us,
Uncle Remus . . .
I can’t wait till my Fro is full-grown
I’ll just throw ‘way my Do-Rag at home
I’ll take a drive to BEVERLY HILLS
Just before dawn
An’ knock the little jockeys
Off the rich people’s lawn
An’ before they get up
I’ll be gone, I’ll be gone
Before they get up
I’ll be knocking the jockeys off the lawn
Down in the dew

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15 thoughts on “Significant Songs (8)

  1. Great choice Pete, I’ve always loved Zappa. Hard to believe it’s over 20 years since his passing, but his work and legacy are as fresh and subversive as ever. Baby Snakes was my favourite Zappa track when I was a kid. My parents did their best to stop me singing it. The joy of naivetΓ© πŸ™‚

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    1. Glad to find some common ground with the Metal fan Tracey. His catalogue of work is incredible, and the people he worked with during his life reads like a musical ‘who’s who’.
      Regards as always, Pete.

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  2. Great, Pete! I love Frank Zappa!! What a coolcool song.

    Hey there, people, I’m Bobby Brown
    they say I’m the cutest boy in town…. tralalala…

    c’mon Selma, let’s dance!! πŸ™‚
    You have sent us right back to the Seventies, Pete
    Thanks a lot! πŸ™‚
    Dina x

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